Toril Moi, 1 July 2021
Simone Weil wanted to merge with the masses, to be anonymous and unobtrusive – a worker, a farmhand, a trade unionist, a soldier – one among many, working and fighting alongside others. Yet she found true solidarity hard to come by. Everywhere she went, she stood out. She was often the only woman; she was always different. The poet Jean Tortel notes that her purity inspired fear. Even her writings are not really about acknowledging the pain of others. They are, rather, about the complete eradication of the self in the service of the afflicted, who, precisely because of their affliction, have already had their own subjectivity obliterated. Weil’s only loving interlocutor is God. What about her ideas? There is no disputing their importance. Her thinking about affliction, attention, factory work, oppression and liberation, rights and obligations, and the need for belonging has been influential across political theory, moral philosophy and theology. She has inspired thinkers as different as Maurice Blanchot, Iris Murdoch and Giorgio Agamben.